During a press conference in Bonita Springs on Friday, Governor Rick Scott praised a Florida Supreme Court ruling in his favor related to an ongoing battle with State Attorney Aramis Ayala.
In its 5-2 ruling on Thursday, the court found that Scott did not exceed his authority when he removed the Orlando-area attorney from all capital cases earlier this year after she announced she would no longer pursue the death penalty for defendants.
Scott said that it was important for him to be able to transfer cases, like the recent shooting death of two police officers in Kissimmee, to someone who was willing seek capital punishment.
“Yesterday was a good Supreme Court decision for families of victims,” said Scott. “The Supreme Court made the decision that I had the authority to move cases away from State Attorney Ayala. She made a decision not to pursue the full extent of the law in cases like what happened with the two Kissimmee police officers.”
When defending her decision before the court, Ayala’s lawyer argued that state attorneys have prosecutorial discretion when deciding whether or not to pursue the death penalty.
The majority of judges agreed with Justice Alan Lawson who wrote that Ayala’s blanket refusal to seek the death penalty “does not reflect an exercise of prosecutorial discretion; it embodies, at best, a misunderstanding of Florida law.”
More than two dozen cases, including that of accused cop-killer Markeith Loyd, have been moved by Scott to Ocala-area State Attorney Brad King, who has been an outspoken advocate of the death penalty. The governor explained that if Ayala wanted to begin prosecuting capital cases again, she would have to prove that she was willing to pursue the death penalty.
“This was about my ability to move those cases to someone who is going to pursue to the full extent of the law,” said Scott. “That is what I expect out of Ayala. She needs to retract her decision to not pursue the death penalty. She needs to convince all of us, including me, that she is going to do her job.”
Information from the News Service of Florida was used in this report.
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